CRITICAL ZONE: Cultural journalism and social networking

Social networks can be platforms for journalism… but their usefulness depends on the knowledge of their logic…

A digital media outlet is one thing and social networks are another. That must be clear, because many people (Internet users and even operators) sometimes mix up the logic of these spaces. A digital press outlet (let’s use terms that I know are going to upset some theorists) is a newspaper, a magazine or an audiovisual news program on the internet. May it be understood: digital journalism has its distinctive features, it is not about reproducing a newspaper on the web, but social authority and responsibility are and should be the same as those of the most conventional media (although digital media are, in fact, conventional).

Social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, etc, etc…) are confluence spaces of dissimilar content and intentions. They are not a space conceived for journalism, although they can be (in fact, they are) perfectly functional platforms for the promotion of journalistic products. And even to do, propose journalism. The quality of that journalism, obviously, is not defined by the characteristics of their format. It has to do with the quality of the staff, clarity in the approaches, command of the logic of every space, and, once again on this topic, clear classification of the contents. Because you can find anything on the networks, without seemingly honoring a thematic and conceptual coherence…, what we propose should ideally be convincing.

Let’s go over our context: the cultural journalism we do in our digital media. There is a lot of cultural journalism in Cuba (we must recognize it, quality is unequal) but the presence on the social networking is not always the most adequate. And the fact that the said presence on the main networks be effective is not a minor issue, because internet users in Cuba access cultural information not mainly on the sites of those media, but on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube profiles… We won’t talk about connection difficulties, but precisely because of those difficulties it is necessary to make better use of the potential of those networks, which are very popular and offer possibilities that haven’t fully been explored yet.

There’s a lack of trained staff (networks must be managed by network professionals), it’s necessary to create collaborative networks among the different media, it’s necessary to boost contents better and stimulate interaction. Because the number of followers and “I like” is important, but not the principal thing: the main thing is that the message be conveyed, capitalized and enables a rich debate that coexists and hopefully sets the pace for other discussions that abound on the networks. Platform, showcase, display… but also spearhead, public service.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

Record-breaking Facebook & Instagram outage sparks Twitter meme frenzy

Netizens from all parts of the world have taken to Twitter to complain about their inability to log on to Instagram or Facebook, as both social media networks have been down with an unknown technical glitch for more than 10 hours.

In what is believed to be the longest outage ever suffered by Facebook and Instagram, which is also owned by the social media giant, users either have been unable to access the platforms, or use certain essential functions such as leaving comments or uploading photos.

When both Facebook and Instagram are down but Twitter is working.

According to the Down Detector, Facebook has been plagued by unknown problems since 12:01pm Wednesday (ET). While Facebook acknowledged on Twitter that it was aware of the issue and was scrambling to resolve it "as soon as possible," full access to the platform has not been restored even after 10 hours of work.

"I can't comment, even on my own thread, or post. I'm getting no new notifications after 20hrs. In North West Montana," a frustrated user wrote.

READ MORE: Facebook briefly takes down Elizabeth Warren's ads on breaking up Facebook

"Is facebook game over? Down for 8 hours already. What is the stock price of facebook today? XD," another quipped.

"I've logged in IG but all my stories and pics are gone :(" a user wrote on the Down Detector.

The outages have impacted different parts of the world, from the US, parts of Latin America, the Philippines to the UK, India, Canada, Turkey, and others.

While the outage has left many unnerved to the point of almost converting to Snapchat, chaos and panic caused by Instagram and Facebook withdrawal saw Twitter, the last social media bastion standing, awash with memes.

MySpace getting ready to relaunch:

Deprived Instagram and Facebook followers served to bump up Twitter user numbers.

All joking aside, the outage apparently trigged withdrawal symptoms, with social media addicts frantically refreshing their pages.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think today has been the longest/worst outage in the history of Facebook/Instagram! It’s driving me crazy!!! Really affecting my work!!

Some pointed out an ironic coincidence – the woes that befell Facebook and Instagram mark exactly 30 years since the internet was created.

Others used the outage as a case in point against monopolies, of which Facebook is a prime example.

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp all down at the same time. Is anyone talking about the weakness of monopolies? How on earth are all these things on the same backbone?

  • Published in World

Cuban Media Denounces New Fake News about President Diaz-Canel

Havana, Feb 22 (Prensa Latina) Media and Cuban Internet users denounced Friday a new fake news attributed to President Miguel Diaz-Canel and an alleged Facebook page of the President.

The lie attributes to the Head of State a call to Cuban artists to the concert for Peace in Venezuela.

We are in front of a new fake news (...) for some time now, a Facebook page has appeared, which supposedly belongs to President Diaz-Canel. This page is fake and among copies of the real account content of our President in Twitter, at any moment public statements that are not real', warns Cubadebate website.

In this regard, it denounces the new maneuver, says: 'we already know what is hidden behind this lie' and reminds social media users that the Head of State 'does not have any official Facebook page yet'.

For its part, the Juventud Rebelde newspaper posts on Twitter that 'the enemy never stops mounting lies and fake news against Cuba, like this supposed call to artists'.

In six decades of Revolution, Cuba has faced armed aggressions, terrorist actions, biological warfare and a sustained media attack with manipulation and misrepresentation as spearheads, a crusade which has increased with the arrival of new information and communication technologies.

Diaz-Canel does have an account on Twitter, in which since Oct. 10, the date on which he issued his first tweet, he has almost 98,000 followers.

The support for Venezuela, the Bolivarian Revolution and its president, Nicolas Maduro, the call to vote Yes for the new Cuban Constitution and his travels around the country, where he talks with ordinary Cubans, stand out among the issues tweeted daily by the president.

  • Published in Cuba

Older people more likely to share fake news on Facebook, study finds

Older people are almost four times more likely to have shared fake news on Facebook than the younger generation, according to research published in the journal Science.

On average, American Facebook users over 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as those aged between 18 and 29, researchers from NYU and Princeton found in the study, which also concluded sharing such false content was “a relatively rare activity”.

The researchers analysed the Facebook history of about 1,750 American adults, cross-referencing links they had posted with lists of fake news publishers. In doing so, they found the vast majority of users did not share any articles from fake news domains in 2016 – 8.5% of those in the study as a whole shared at least one link to a domain such as denverguardian.com, truepundit.com, or donaldtrumpnews.co.

These sites, and 18 others like them, made up the list of “intentionally or systematically factually inaccurate” stories the researchers defined as fake news. Sites that are “partisan or hyperpartisan”, such as the far-right Breitbart.com, were excluded from the list of fake news purveyors.

But of those who shared links from the 21 “mostly pro-Donald Trump” domains the researchers looked at, there were clear demographic differences.

Eighteen per cent of Republican users shared at least one link to a fake news site, compared with less than 4% of Democrats. The more conservative a user was, the more articles they shared – a finding attributed to the fact that fake news in 2016 was mostly pro-Trump, and “the tendency of respondents to share articles they agree with”.

Those who shared the most content in general were less likely to share fake news, suggesting the problem is not that some people “will share anything”, the paper said. Instead, people who share a large number of links are more media-savvy, and able to distinguish real from fake online.

That findings are backed up by the demographic data: over-65s, who came to the internet later in life, shared more than twice as many fake news articles as those in the second-oldest age group, even when controlling for ideology, education and the total number of links shared.

The authors wrote: “As the largest generation in America enters retirement at a time of sweeping demographic and technological change, it is possible that an entire cohort of Americans, now in their 60s and beyond, lacks the level of digital media literacy necessary to reliably determine the trustworthiness of news encountered online.

“Within this cohort, lower levels of digital literacy could be compounded by the tendency to use social endorsements as credibility cues. If true, this would imply a growing impact, as more Americans from older age groups join online social communities.”

A second possibility, they noted, is that the findings are a specific case of the general effect of ageing on memory. “Memory deteriorates with age in a way that particularly undermines resistance to ‘illusions of truth’,” the authors wrote.

Private Messages Of 81,000 Facebook Users Leaked Online: Report

London: Hackers have gained access to private messages of nearly 120 million Facebook accounts and already published such messages from 81,000 accounts for generating money, the BBC reported.

Several users whose details have been compromised were based in Ukraine and Russia but some were also from the UK, US, Brazil and elsewhere, the report said on Friday.

"The hackers offered to sell access for 10 cents per account. However, their advert has since been taken offline," it added.

The breach was first discovered in September and the messages were reportedly obtained through unnamed rogue browser extensions.

Facebook, however, said its systems were not breached as part of the hack.

"We have contacted browser-makers to ensure that known malicious extensions are no longer available to download in their stores," Guy Rose, Vice President of Product Management at Facebook, was quoted as saying.

"We have also contacted law enforcement and have worked with local authorities to remove the website that displayed information from Facebook accounts."

The BBC Russian Service contacted five Russian Facebook users whose private messages had been uploaded and confirmed the posts were theirs.

"One example included photographs of a recent holiday, another was a chat about a recent Depeche Mode (British rock band) concert and a third included complaints about a son-in-law," the report said.

In the biggest-ever security breach after Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook in October admitted that hackers broke into nearly 50 million users' accounts by stealing their "access tokens" or digital keys.

Rosen had said that Facebook fixed the vulnerability and reset the access tokens for a total of 90 million accounts -- 50 million that had access tokens stolen and 40 million that were subject to a "View As" look-up in 2017.

Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC), which is Facebook's lead privacy regulator in Europe, has opened a formal investigation into this data breach that could result in a fine of $1.63 billion.

According to Digital Trends, the latest hack involves the use of browser extensions.

"It is always best to check which source an extension is coming from, and which permissions it is being granted access to," it said.

  • Published in World

Donald Trump Weighs Order To Investigate Google, Facebook: Report

Washington: President Donald Trump is weighing an executive order that would open federal antitrust and criminal probes into Google, Facebook and other social media firms, US media said Saturday, though the White House promptly distanced itself from the reports.

Last month, Trump stepped up his attacks on big tech companies, warning them to be "careful," and slamming what he called "rigged" internet search results.

The US president had complained that Google searches for "Trump news" brought up mostly negative stories about him.

Google strongly rejected any bias claims.

The White House's draft executive order focuses on alleged "bias" at the companies.

"Executive departments and agencies with authorities that could be used to enhance competition among online platforms (agencies) shall... use those authorities to promote competition and ensure that no online platform exercises market power in a way that harms consumers, including through the exercise of bias," read a draft of the report circulated by US media.

"Not later than 30 days from the date of this order, agencies shall submit to the Director of the National Economic Council an initial list of (1) actions each agency can potentially take to protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias."

The text also demands that federal agencies investigation any potential "violation of the antitrust laws" by an online platform.

However, The Washington Post cited three White House aides as saying they did not write the draft order and did not know its origins, while a senior official said the document existed but had yet to go through the formal process controlled by the staff secretary.

"Although the White House is concerned about the conduct of online platforms and their impact on society, this document is not the result of an official White House policymaking process," deputy White House spokeswoman Lindsey Waters was quoted as saying.

Google and other internet firms have long faced complaints about search results, which are based on algorithms that can take into account user browsing history, location and other factors.

But technology and media analysts say there is little evidence to suggest Google skews results for political reasons. And if they did, the president would have little recourse under the constitution's free speech protections.

  • Published in World

Social Networks and the Price of Truth

While Trump was making his remarks against the possible censorship of conservative speech, the news of the hacking of Cubainformacion.tv website was disclosed on Facebook.

The president of the United States, who often says that US journalists are "the enemies of the people", because they only publish "fake news", has just declared "it is dangerous for social networks such as Twitter Inc and Facebook Inc to silence the diversity of voices on their services."

Trump's remarks, made on Monday during an interview with Reuters, come at a time when social networks are struggling to monitor foreign propaganda on their platforms.

Facebook has spent more than a year and a half trying to put an end to the "fake news demon" and recently suffered the scandal of Cambridge Analytica, a company that used, as it became known only a few months ago, its platform to obtain data of 87 million people that may have been used in the presidential elections of the United States in favor of Donald Trump’s election.

Less than three months before the November elections in the United States, Planet Facebook is determined to improve its impartial network image after, thus it is ensured, there will be revealed that Russians financed thousands of false political ads in the 2016 elections.

To do this Facebook wants to investigate people who place political advertisements in national elections and require them to confirm their names and addresses. The political ads must, according to the new rules, have a note clarifying who paid for them.

Just a few days ago, Apple Inc, YouTube and Facebook decided to remove some content published by Infowars, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the same man who claimed on the networks that the massacres caused by the Sandy Hook Elementary School and High School shootings, in Parkland, Florida, are an hoax in which the students are "used as political tools by the extreme left to boost their anti-conservative rhetoric and anti-weapon agenda."

According to the Spanish newspaper El País, Facebook said Jones's pages violated its terms of service. "We have removed it because it glorifies violence, which violates our policy on graphic violence, and uses a dehumanizing language to describe transgender, Muslim and immigrant people, thus violating our policy on hate speech and bullying."

Thus Reuters insinuates, Trump's assertions that "I'm not going to mention names, but when they take some people off Twitter or Facebook, and they're making that decision, that's really a dangerous thing, because tomorrow it can happen to you", might have to do with Jones's recent social media censorship. Trump appeared on a show produced by Infowars and hosted by Jones in December 2015, while campaigning for the White House.

Trump's fears over censorship are to some extent justified if you take into account that the president has a glass roof. A few hours after his statements, the New York governor called him "anti-American" because "he protects white supremacists, denies basic healthcare rights, discriminates people because of their sex orientation, closes doors for refugees, rips babies from their mother's arms because they want to come to this country and because he locks children in cages."

It is not the first time that users ask for the shutdown of Trump’s Twitter account because the president's tweets violate several of the rules of that social network according to which "behaviors that crosses the line into abuse are not tolerated, and that includes harassment, intimidation or the use of fear to silence other users’ voice or threatening or inciting violence."

But so far Twitter has made it clear that it does not intend to shutdown Donald Trump's account, even if the president violates its rules to combat harassment of others. The executive director of the firm Jack Dorsey told NBC in May that "it is very important to listen to the leaders directly" in order to ask for an accountability and to be able to openly address the problems, not behind closed doors. In addition, he also said that besides the presidential prominence, Trump’s account is attractive from a commercial point of view because his tweets constantly generate headlines that constitute free advertising for the company and could attract more users.

In the end, Trump continues to insult right and left in that way, as he did recently with his former adviser, Omarosa Manigault, whom he called "bitch” and nobody seems to care much about the double standard of Twitter censorship.

The same happens with Facebook and its concern over political interference in North American elections. Who has protested or questioned the role played by Cambridge Analytica in the elections of other countries?

According to data published recently by PhD in Social Communication and Sciences Rosa Miriam Elizalde: "Cambridge Analytica, the London branch of a US contractor devoted to active military operations online  for twenty-five years, has intervened in some 200 elections all over the world. "Psychological operations" were its modus operandi, its goal: to change public opinion and influence not through persuasion, but via "information control." The novelty is not the use of flyers, Radio Europa Libre or TV Martí, but rather Big Data and artificial intelligence to lock each citizen who leaves information traces on the network in an observable, parameterized and predictable bubble."

Task Force through both Facebook and Twitter, fake news and hate and bullying against Cuba dominate the scene. The same happens against countries such as Nicaragua and Venezuela. It is worth wondering. Will Facebook and other social networks take the same precautions before the political manipulation of other countries' elections or their concern over "foreign propaganda" is only exclusivity for the U.S.?

Just today, while Trump was making his remarks against the possible censorship of conservative speech, the news of the hacking of Cubainformacion.tv website, an alternative outlet online that defends the Cuban Revolution, was disclosed on Facebook. Of course no "news" agency has said anything about it and likely they never will. In this case, how much will it be necessary to pay for the news to be promoted to the largest number of people?

Does anyone know how much can truth cost in social networks?

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

 
  • Published in Specials

Will Facebook ban subversive propaganda against Cuba?

Does Facebook have any notion regarding the sort of propaganda Radio Marti is trying to camouflage through its platform to Cuban internet users?

As I have warned in previous articles, and after being accused of allowing Russia to interfering in the 2016 presidential election, Facebook is being absorbed in a campaign to remove all the paid propaganda from its website.

The last attempt to improve its “unbiased” image occurred on Tuesday when the social network removed more than 650 websites, groups, and accounts identified as “inauthentic behavior,” according to its CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The “conspiracy” refuted by Facebook, according to the report delivered to the American authorities, was carried out from websites that were tracked to Iran and groups linked to operations of the Russian intelligence.

According to Facebook, the accounts —also in Instagram and owned by Facebook as well— the news that were presented as independent or by groups belonging to the civil society were actually working in coordinated efforts targeting users from UK, Latin America, Middle East, and the U.S.

The websites, in the words of Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher, were linked to state-owned media from Iran through the publicly available website registration information. Such is the case of Quest 4 Truth, which claims to be an organization independent from Iran media.

The vast majority of the removed accounts focused its activity range on the Near East and tried to manipulate public opinion on some U.S. policies and certain anti-Israeli, anti-Saudi Arabian stances. Similarly, they favor pro-Palestinians viewpoints.

The same source also confirmed in a news conference that Facebook removed a number of websites and accounts previously identified as Russian military services, and following the reports, they were unrelated to Iran.

The HuffPost revealed that this network had 813 000 accounts in Facebook and 10 000 in Instagram and spent around 6,000 USD in ads for Facebook between 2012 and April 2018.

In other words, according to Facebook latest policies, the removed networks were not only related to governments that Washington targets in its sanctions, but these countries also paid ads in order to spread their political propaganda.

So far, so good. Facebook assumes its right to host or not in its platform, paid political propaganda. The problem lays in discerning if the largest social network in the world can be consistent with its principles with other sort of “paid political propaganda.”

Of course we are referring to the kind of propaganda Facebook is using against Cuba. The later was recently confirmed in the budgetary documents for the tax years of 2018 and 2019 of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, released by the Miami New Times.

The document highlights that the U.S. government has plans to use Cuban “native” and “non-branded” accounts in Facebook to spread content created by the government without notifying Cuban users in Facebook:

Due to the Cuban blockade of Radio and TV Marti, the OCB digital strategy has turned to social networks. These consist of Facebook, YouTube, and Google which are the most visited in Cuba. By using AVRA technology, the Radio Marti programs became radio-visual and were broadcasted via Facebook Live along with the programming of TV Marti. It certainly gives the OCB and additional, efficient, and profitable distribution either for its radio-visual or TV content.

In the tax year of 2018, the OCB is creating digital devices in Cuba aiming for creating fake accounts in Facebook to spread information. The websites opened in the island increase the chances of reaching Cuban users in Facebook. The same strategy will be copycatted in other social networks.

According to the Miami New Times, the budgetary document suggests that the OCB (Office of Cuba Broadcasting) plans to spread American propaganda against Cuba to deceive users in Cuba and make them believe that the information is coming from other Cuban users, not from the Radio Marti headquarters.

Does Facebook have any notion regarding the sort of propaganda the OCB is trying to camouflage through its platform to Cuban internet users?

There is no doubt who are the ones paying for it. Since the 1980s, when the inappropriately called Radio Marti was created by the government of Ronald Reagan, such radio station has not stopped trying convey subversive propaganda against the Cuban Revolution either by radio or television; and recently by using new technologies. As the article states, the OCB created the text message service Piramideo (Pyramid), which could not “meet its goal of promoting dissent in Cuba” and for years managed to smuggle small satellite devices that could provide internet access until such smuggling was stopped in 2015 due to the excessive spending.

As we have said before, the hate speech against Cuba abounds in that social network and quoting the Miami New Times, Nasserie Carew, spokeswoman at the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Facebook project never “took off.” But honestly, that is a “weird answer” if we take into account the plan was linked to documents that account for the 2018-2019 budget.

It is also weird that Facebook, a social network that presents itself to the world as an independent enterprise, emerges as part of a dirty war against Cuba in a U.S. government document. Is Facebook part of the Task Force created last January by the Trump Administration, which according to the State Department, “will evaluate the technological challenges as well as the opportunities to widen the access to the Internet and the independent media in Cuba? And it will certainly find ways to spread the usage of social networks and the free Internet access in the island.

Although the spokesman of Facebook did not answer any of the questions on the subject, we may assume that the new subversive plans of the OCB against Cuba are not allowed by such social network by a simple reason, as noted by Professor John S. Nichols, from the Pennsylvania University, co-author of the book 1987 Clandestine Radio Broadcasting in his book:

"Third-party countries see what they’re doing and say, 'There goes the United States again doing that dumb stuff,'" he says. "It's small, mean, and not worthy of a great power. Other countries say, 'If the U.S. is willing to violate international law, why should we obey our treaty obligations?' I think that has a long-term negative effect. And given what Radio and TV Martí might doing right now, it becomes hard for us to complain about what other countries might be doing to us."

Suffice to say that amid such strong misinformation campaign Facebook is in, removing the subversive propaganda posted in its platform would increase the trust of its users for sure. Besides, it should not be complicated to achieve it if we take into account that the budget report of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors has saved Facebook time and resources in the investigation.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz // CubaSi Translation Staff

Subscribe to this RSS feed